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Book Review


by DOUG NADVORNICK & r & & r & Ricochet & r & by Richard Feldman & r & & r & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & H & lt;/span & ere's the main revelation from Richard Feldman's new book about the National Rifle Association (subtitled "Confessions of a Gun Lobbyist"): The NRA is more interested in maximizing conflict with anti-gun groups, milking its members for money and taking rigid stands on gun rights than it is in forging workable compromises on gun legislation.

Is that a surprise? To those of us who watch politics with an increasingly jaded eye, it isn't. (And I don't mean to pick on the NRA here; you could probably tell nasty stories about many of the major special interest lobbying groups, from both sides of the political spectrum.)

Richard Feldman was one of the NRA's main political operatives in the 1980s and 1990s, forging and carrying out strategies to protect gun owners' rights. He was no choir boy; he was a tough guy in a tough business. But one day, in the midst of a battle over a bill in Congress -- a battle the NRA seemed to be winning -- he had a revelation: My organization, he realized, is mostly interested in prolonging the battle, riling up our members and getting them to give us more money.

"Today, with a membership of around 3 million, the association is probably the single most politically active lobbying group in the country," Feldman writes. "And the quaint interests of the wealthy and working- class waterfowl hunters have become a much lower priority on the NRA's agenda."

That's not to say Feldman had an epiphany and changed his stance on gun control. He's a firm Second Amendment supporter, but he's also a political realist. After 30 years of high-profile cases involving gun violence, many Americans are anti-gun. And the NRA's uncompromising views are often out of touch with most Americans.

Feldman's book is an interesting look at the inside world of gun lobbying, particularly at the power struggles within the NRA. It's juicy stuff, and after reading it, you may share Feldman's skepticism about America's political process: "The American people, gun owners and non-owners alike, need to take an active role and not leave the outcome to the professional lobbyists -- that's a guaranteed prescription for stalemate."